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Kumquats: Adorable, In Season, and Filled With Phytonutrients for Chronic Inflammation

*New main squeeze alert.*

A quick glance at a carton of kumquats in the produce aisle, and you may think, Honey, they shrunk the oranges. It’s easy to understand why: They look like a clementine trapped in the body of a plump Kalamata olive. But don’t let their looks deceive you. Despite their small, unassuming size, kumquat benefits for your skin, gut, and overall longevity are fairly impressive.

In case you’ve never encountered them at the grocery store or farmer’s market: Kumquats are small, orange-colored citrus fruits, about the size of a large grape. They boast a soft, waxy exterior and juicy, sour interior. These fruits are native to China, but are also grown in the United States in citrus-bearing states like California and Florida. The fruit is typically found only during its peak season, between mid-winter and early spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

“Kumquats, despite their small size, are a powerhouse of nutrients offering numerous health benefits.” —Lauren Manaker, RDN, LD, CLEC, CPT

Unlike most citrus fruits, whose peels are typically used for zesting a dish or garnishing a drink (or, worse, destined for the trash), eating the entirety of a kumquat (peel included) is not only possible but encouraged . In fact, it’s what gives this flavorful fruit an upper hand when it comes to nutrient content and longevity-boosting benefits compared to some of its close (citrusy) relatives. “Kumquats, despite their small size, are a powerhouse of nutrients offering numerous health benefits,” says Lauren Manaker, RDN, LD, CLEC, CPT, a registered dietitian based in Charleston.

Ahead, Manaker delves into the impressive benefits of kumquats, so you can squeeze every last drop out of them.

5 kumquat benefits for health

1. They’re packed with vitamin C

According to Manaker, this tiny fruit packs a big punch. “Firstly, they are a natural source of vitamin C, playing a crucial role in supporting the immune system and skin health,” Manaker says. Specifically, vitamin C’s benefits for skin include improving collagen absorption and stabilizing free radical damage for a glowier, less-lined complexion.

Vitamin C can also play an important role in supporting your mood. In fact, some studies have linked low levels of vitamin C to decreased levels of important neurotransmitters like dopamine, aka the body’s happiness hormone, and norepinephrine, which helps regulate your fight-or-flight response.

According to the USDA, a 100-gram serving of kumquats contains nearly 44 milligrams of vitamin C. For context, health experts recommend getting between 75 and 90 milligrams of the nutrient a day.

2. They are filled with antioxidants

Kumquats contain high levels of polyphenols, Manaker says, a plant compound linked to boosting cognitive functioning, immune system health, and reduced risk of chronic disease. Research also shows that polyphenols have anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties and can help slow the development of certain diseases associated with aging. Polyphenols are also prevalent in the diets of Blue Zones residents, which might be one of the reasons why those populations tend to live longer than the average person.

3. They’re a good source of gut-healthy fiber

Kumquats contain nearly seven grams of fiber per 100-gram serving (!!!), which is more than enough to help you hit the recommended amount of fiber per meal (of six grams). Overall, Manaker recommends that adult women consume roughly 21 to 35 grams of fiber per day, while adult men consume 30 to 38 grams of fiber per day. Manaker says that fiber is important for adding bulk to your diet, aiding in regulating bowel movements, and preventing constipation.

Aside from the fiber component, bitter foods like citrus can also be very beneficial for gut health because they “enhance digestion, stimulate appetite, and stimulate the release of digestive juices in the pancreas,” Theresa Shank, RD, previously told Well+Good.

4. They have a moderate amount of calcium and potassium

Manaker says kumquats contain a modest amount of other essential minerals like calcium and potassium; 62 milligrams and 186 milligrams per 100-gram serving, respectively. These two nutrients can help support bone health and heart function, she says.

5. They contain a substantial amount of phytonutrients

Manaker also points out you’ll likely get higher concentrations of certain phytonutrients—aka phytochemicals or antioxidants, plant compounds that promote overall well-being—from kumquats compared to other citrus, since you’re able to eat their peels (where many phytonutrients are stored). This, in turn, helps enhance kumquats’ overall nutritional profile, she says.

How many kumquats should you eat a day?

Moderation is key, but if you’re looking for a specific number of how many fruit to eat, Manaker says a good place to start is roughly four to five kumquats per day.

“Owing to their small size, eating four to five kumquats per day is generally safe and offers a convenient way to incorporate them into a balanced diet,” Manaker says. But don’t go overboard. “Concerning daily consumption, kumquats can be enjoyed in moderation due to their high acid and sugar content,” Manaker says. (If you find that acids disrupt your digestion, you may also want to avoid consuming citrus on an empty stomach.)

Do you eat the skin on a kumquat?

Yes, you can eat the skin of a kumquat, Manaker says. “The skin of a kumquat is not only edible, but also highly nutritious,” Manaker says. “In contrast to other citrus fruits, where the peel is often discarded due to its bitter taste and tough texture, kumquat skin is sweet and packed with essential oils, antioxidants, and fiber,” she says.

That’s great news, because you get lots of extra antioxidants from citrus skin.”Additionally, the compounds found in the skin have been linked to various health benefits, including improved digestion and potential anti-inflammatory properties,” Manaker says. Kumquat skins also help give the fruit a more well-balanced flavor (and nutrient) profile. “Eating the skin, along with the flesh, offers a balanced flavor profile of sweetness and tanginess, enhancing the overall eating experience,” she adds.

Keep in mind, however, folks with a sensitivity or allergy to citrus should avoid consuming kumquat peels.

What are the side effects of kumquats?

“While kumquats are incredibly nutritious and beneficial, they do have potential side effects that consumers should be aware of, especially when consumed in excess,” Manaker says. “For instance, due to their high acid content, overconsumption of kumquats may lead to gastrointestinal issues such as heartburn or acid reflux among certain populations,” she explains.

Manaker also indicates that although edible, you may want to be cautious about ingesting kumquat seeds. “Kumquat seeds, if swallowed, can pose a choking hazard, especially for young children, or cause intestinal blockage, though this is relatively rare,” she says. And to reiterate, some folks may be allergic or have an intolerance to citrus, including kumquats.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to limit sugar intake, kumquats contain a decent amount per serving—about 10 grams of sugar per 100-gram serving, to be exact. “Kumquats are indeed high in natural sugars. This means that while they are a healthier alternative to ultra-processed snacks and sweets, moderation is key, especially for individuals monitoring their sugar intake, such as those with diabetes,” Manaker says.

How to eat kumquats

Kumquats are incredibly versatile, making them delicious to eat in so many ways. If you don’t want to just eat them whole, Manaker loves adding the fruit to salads. “A simple yet delightful way to enjoy them is by slicing them into thin rounds and adding them to salads. This provides a burst of citrus that complements both vegetable and fruit salads,” she says.

For a sweeter take, Manaker recommends candied kumquats. “For those with a sweet tooth, candied kumquats make for an exquisite treat; simmering them in a simple syrup enhances their natural sweetness while preserving their distinct tanginess, perfect as a dessert topping or a standalone snack,” she says.

Finally, Manaker recommends incorporating kumquats in savory dishes too. “Another innovative approach is to incorporate kumquats into savory dishes, such as roasting them alongside chicken or fish, where their juice adds an unexpected yet harmonious flavor profile,” she says. “Whether used fresh, candied, or as a flavor-enhancer in cooked dishes, kumquats are sure to elevate the taste experience,” Manaker says.

Citrus to spare? Make these citrus glaze donuts: